Saturday 19 January 2019

Highland Reel can dance to champion tune

Highland Reel gets the nod at a decent price of 8/1. Photo: ©
Highland Reel gets the nod at a decent price of 8/1. Photo: ©
Wayne Bailey

Wayne Bailey

It always irritates me on Budget Day when you stick on the news and they give you the example of a typical couple, and how the budget is going to affect them. You know the type of feature:

"John and Mary are a married couple with one four-year-old child named Jack. Mary is a nurse, John is a civil servant and they earn…."

Do we really need to make up names? Can viewers not picture concepts like "a one-child married couple earning…"

I'm not quite sure why it bugs me and there's plenty more to be worrying about in this world, but a politician once told me that, if you want to hold someone's interest or get people on your side when doing an interview, use a personal story and give people a name.

Make it up if you have to. It has a much bigger impact when you personalise an issue, and readers should watch out for this sometimes cynical practice in upcoming elections and referenda.

It's the same with storm names. Ophelia, who was one of two female characters in William Shakespeare's play Hamlet, will catch people's attention much more than a boring old regular storm warning.

Indeed, studies have shown that the public are far more likely to heed the warnings if the storm has a name.

In Britain and Ireland, a storm-naming system was introduced in 2013 and the latest storm Brian, which sounds like a rather pleasant storm to me, is due to hit the country this weekend.

Plenty of rain is expected so factor that into your betting but thankfully, it looks like Ascot will escape the worst of it where the ground is described as soft for this afternoon's Champions Day, which features four Group Ones.

It's an absolute cracker of a meeting although Ulysses will be a notable absentee from the Champion Stakes (3.50) with Michael Stoute sending the Juddmonte International winner straight to Del Mar instead for the Breeders' Cup Turf.

That leaves Cracksman at the head of the market around 2/1 although he hasn't raced at a mile and a quarter since winning the Epsom Derby Trial in April and I'm not convinced it's his best trip.

Instead, Highland Reel gets the nod at a decent price of 8/1 yesterday, although I'll be keeping an eye on the weather as he wouldn't want it heavy.

The ground played a part in his defeat in the King George but he simply looked off on the day and I'm willing to overlook that race.

He had Ulysses, amongst others, behind him when winning the Prince Of Wales' Stakes here in June and, if bouncing back to his best, he'll give the market leader plenty to worry about.

Harry Angel is short around 11/10 but looks like banker material for the British Champions Sprint Stakes (2.0). A four-length winner of the Sprint Cup at Haydock on soft ground, he's won four and was runner-up three times in a seven-race career, the latest two wins in Group Ones.

In the following Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (2.40), French raider Bateel gets the nod at 9/4. She was beaten in this last year by one of today's rivals Journey but the tables were turned at Chantilly last time when she beat John Gosden's mare by two and-a-half lengths, the softer conditions really bringing out the best in the mare.

Formerly trained by David Simcock, she's won three Group races for Francis-Henri Graffard and continues to thrive. Definitely the one to beat.

In the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (3.15) over a mile, Ribchester is tipped to beat Churchill, priced in the region of 2/1. A flexible sort that acts on any ground, Ribchester is still one of the top milers in Europe aged four, and I'm not convinced any of the three-year-old horses are good enough to nudge him off his pedestal just yet.


Trained by Richard Hannon, The Grape Escape has been tightening up in the betting for the Balmoral Handicap (4.30 Ascot) but I'm hopeful I can still get a nice each-way price around 9/1.

He's won his latest two races so carries a 6lb penalty on top of his mark of 97, giving him an effective rating of 103. However, he's actually due to go up to 105 in the future so in theory he's a couple of pounds well-in here.


1.25 Ascot: Order Of St George

2.0 Ascot: Harry Angel

2.40 Ascot: Bateel

3.15 Ascot: Ribchester

3.50 Ascot: Highland Reel

4.30 Ascot: The Grape Escape (e/w)

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